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12 KNOWLEDGE interview questions for Scrum

These questions test your KNOWLEDGE and comprehension of Scrum. They can be useful for Scrum Master candidates to refresh their knowledge, and for interviewers to prepare for an interview. For each question, we provide a few important points that the interviewer is looking for in the answers.

What is the difference between an iterative process and an incremental process?

Looking for: understanding of the difference between these two approaches, their connection to Scrum, and how to use them for planning the development of a new product.

Answer: An iterative process makes progress through continuous refinement. For example, in a software project, an iterative approach may not have a full plan of the overall solution/product upfront, but rather it would start with a simpler version and then iterate from that. Think about building a prototype, then a beta version, then a production release of the product, and then continue expanding it through refinement. It’s like an artist who begins a new painting with some broad brush strokes, then steps back, observes the impression created, and then decides how to change it. Refinement and change are essential in this process.

Conversely, an incremental process makes progress through small increments. An overall plan may be available, and the solution/product may be well defined. For example, in a software project, an incremental approach involves building and releasing one feature at a time depending on priorities defined by the customer. It’s like building a house where you start from the foundation and then build one floor at a time. A plan and a set of priorities are essential in this process.

Scrum is both iterative and incremental. Every Sprint, the Scrum team builds an increment of the product, and based on inspection the team decides how to adapt their plan to iterate on the solution.

What is an empirical process?

Looking for: explanation of Empiricism and its connection with Scrum; difference between complex and complicated product; Scrum’s ability to support experimentation.

What do story points represent?

Looking for: understanding of difference between relative and absolute estimate; also difference between estimating time and estimating effort.

Answer: story points are numbers that represent the relative estimate of amount of effort necessary to complete a work item compared to a baseline (typically the baseline represents 1 story point of effort).

What is Velocity and how do you use it?

Looking for: explanation that Velocity is the historic amount of work completed by the team in a previous Sprint; understanding of how to calculate it; understanding that Velocity does not represent value delivered; explanation that Velocity can be used to estimate the available capacity in the upcoming Sprint; understanding that Velocity cannot be used to compare performance between different teams.

What is an Interrupt Buffer and how do you use it?

Looking for: understanding of how to help team deliver on their Sprint Goal commitment in the face of unexpected events or additional work that happens during the Sprint; understanding of a starting range for a buffer on capacity, and how to help the team adjust it if necessary.

What is a typical challenge of a Scrum Master who has a double role on the team (acting as PO or as Developer as well)?

Looking for: understanding of the key responsibilities of each role; understanding of the Scrum Master’s responsibility to coach and help others improve; understanding of conflicts when Scrum Master in acting in a double role.

Which of the five Scrum values do you think is the most important?

Looking for: knowledge of the five Scrum values; understanding of their meaning; and how they can be used by a Scrum team to improve team performance.

What is the User Story format? And who is typically the “user”?

Looking for: knowledge of the User Story format and its value in the context of new product development; understanding of the difference between writing requirements, and writing User Stories; understanding that the “user” is the end-user benefiting from the work, and is not the person doing the work (for example, not the “Developer” nor the “Product Owner”).

What is the difference between Acceptance Criteria and Definition of Done?

Looking for: understanding of the need to know the “end-state” of a work item for Developers to be able to execute the work and deliver quality of the work; understanding that Acceptance Criteria are specific to one work item, and Definition of Done is overall set of criteria for all the work the team is doing.

What are some ways that the Product Owner can prioritize the Product Backlog?

Looking for: understanding that one of the Scrum Master’s responsibilities is to coach the Product Owner, helping him/her to learn more about their role and different techniques they can employ; understanding that multiple factors may be considered when prioritizing the Product Backlog, including business priorities, value for the customer, dependencies, risk reduction, new market opportunities, emergency requests, etc.

Who is required at Daily Scrum, and who is optional?

Looking for: knowledge of Scrum basics; understanding of the purpose of Daily Scrum and the main objective that Developers are trying to achieve by holding the event; also, understanding of how the Scrum Master can help the Developers make it more effective through facilitation.

Why do the Sprints have a consistent duration?

Looking for: understanding of basics of Scrum; understanding of importance of establishing reliable plans and commitments for the Sprint; understanding that consistent Sprint durations allow the Scrum team to establish Velocity and then use it to estimate available capacity for the next Sprint.

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